The warriors of comedy

Documentary hopes to prove laughter heals all wounds

Filmmakers John Wager and Ray Reo discuss their new film about the importance of comedy in healing.

Filmmakers John Wager and Ray Reo discuss their new film about the importance of comedy in healing. Photo by Marcy Velte.

— Bobby Henline always had a knack for comedy and a sense of humor that helped him keep sane while deployed in Iraq, but after sustaining devastating battlefield injuries his jokes became a lifeline.

In April of 2007, the Army staff sergeant lost an arm and 38 percent of his body was burned after an improvised explosive device struck his Humvee outside the village of Zaganiyah. For a while, Henline said he didn’t want to live anymore, suffering through dozens of surgeries and medical procedures to help him live a semi-normal life, but comedy brought him back from the brink.

“A sense of humor helps us to heal. Not physically. We all know how the human body works. But mentally, humor really helps,” he said. “It helps us and it helps our family to know we’re still here and we’re going to be all right.”

For the past two years Henline has been touring as a motivational speaker and stand-up comedian, telling his story to others. Now, he and four other wounded veterans are part of a new project aimed to use humor as a method of rehabilitation.

“Humor is a great equalizer,” said Saratoga Springs resident John Wager, co- producer of the new documentary “Comedy Warriors: Healing through Humor.” “It can lift you through hard times and help you heal. … These veterans have been through hell and back on our behalf and now they are about to go on a journey of a different kind.”

Through the help of co-producer Ray Reo, the veterans will be partnered with A-list comedians and comedy writers to create a stand-up routine that will reflect their struggles and triumphs after being wounded. The documentary will tell the story of each veteran, from entering the military to the recovery process, and focus on what it takes to do stand-up at a live venue.

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